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Create Fest combines engineering minds, business savvy to develop marketable inventions

Create Fest is being held at the School of Business Dec. 1-2. (Photos by Ted Allen)

Developing successful business models for engineering inventions takes partnership and collaboration, which is what this week’s Create Fest at Liberty University is all about.

On Thursday, student teams from adjunct professor Marc Jantomaso’s Introduction to Engineering (ENGR 102) class showcased posters of their innovative project ideas in the School of Business atrium. Fellow students and faculty members will vote on the top 10 ideas, and the winners will advance to a “Shark Tank-”style pitch competition on Friday night. Judges include Dr. Jeff Cohu, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., as well as the founders of two local businesses, Rookie’s and Bacon Street Bagels, Liberty alumni Jordan and Holly Nickerson.

The projects ranged from a thermos with battery-powered refrigeration, to a bike brake design that uses a magnetic field to create a perpendicular torque that opposes the wheel’s motion, to a dual car phone holder/charger with a magnetic phone connector, to a coin-sized magnetic hands-free light for mechanics to use in small spaces.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Nathan Child worked on an eraser invention for a dry erase board with classmates Conor Campbell (sophomore) and Josh Broomell (freshman). Their eraser, attached to a marker, holds cleaning solution and functions like a sponge for a better clean. The eraser is removable and washable.

“I liked having the opportunity to actually apply the knowledge we have been learning and are going to be learning to create a project like this,” Child said.

Campbell added: “It’s incredible that we as freshmen who have no experience, still have an opportunity and a chance to create a product and make money for it. I don’t know another place that does something like this, especially for freshmen.”

Engineering adjunct professor Marc Jantomaso (left) talks with business project management junior Landon Wilson

Create Fest was designed to inspire students of different backgrounds to engage in conversations and co-labor to transform ideas and concepts into marketable inventions.

“We’re trying to create the synergy between engineering and business and anybody on campus who has an idea that we can bring that creative technical element to,” said Jantomaso, who serves as student leadership development advisor and lab manager for the School of Engineering as well as a mentor in the School of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship. “I want (business students) to hear their pitches and ask them questions … to give their feedback based on what they’re learning in the business world, whether it’s marketing or promotion or research. Then, they can help them with business strategy, sales, accounting, so students of all different backgrounds and giftings are working together.”

Another campuswide Create Fest pitch competition is set for March 30-31.

“This (week’s event) is kind of a prototype to see what it could look like, because we want to go a lot larger-scale in the spring,” said engineering student Joshua Alatis, who helped organize Create Fest. “For this semester, the only people who are able to compete are engineering students. But in the spring, we want it to be not just engineers, not just business students. We want there to be music students, we want there to be medical students. We want it to be anyone from all over campus who has an entrepreneurial idea.”

The School of Engineering and School of Business have worked to provide more opportunities for entrepreneurship training. This fall, the School of Engineering introduced a new area called “Creationeer Café” where students can brainstorm on creationeering concepts and inventions and for the department to conduct workshops. The school has trademarked the term “creationeering,” a focus on applying engineering concepts through lessons from God’s own designs in nature. Throughout Create Fest, the Creationeer Café offered a beverage station to raise funds for prospective student scholarships.

In the spring, students from all academic disciplines will have the chance to enroll in a new, free online course on entrepreneurship, developed with the help of Liberty alumni and real estate business brothers David and Jason Benham who will offer biblically based entrepreneurial advice through a series of videos. The course is a prerequisite for any participant in the spring Create Fest pitch competition.

“Creationeering encompasses entrepreneurship, but it’s more than that,” said Jantomaso, who helped develop the course. “It’s science and engineering. It’s ‘Pray, Think, Create.’ It’s a whole different mindset.”

“As Christians, we believe that the Creator gives us the inspiration to create,” he added, noting that there is a big difference between an entrepreneur and a Kingdom entrepreneur. “Kingdom entrepreneurs do everything they do so they can connect God with people who are disconnected from Him, so we can glorify God in all that we do.”

The School of Engineering also launched a minor in technology entrepreneurship this fall, where students can take projects from conceptual models to actual prototypes by their senior years.

“Senior capstone presentations are going to be more through the lens of business, but then you get to highlight your engineering skillset (and) it’s going to add a lot of value to your degree,” said School of Business professor Dr. George Young, who helped develop the minor. “When you graduate, in your engineering firm you are going to be an entrepreneur in a corporate setting. You are going to create products and have solutions for companies and those are going to be revenue-generating, so the better you get at that and look at those techniques and methodologies, then you can use that brilliant mind that God has blessed you with to create those engineering solutions.”

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